Tuesday, June 11, 2013

angry, walking idiot

I got really angry at cancer today.

I got desperately, selfishly, childishly angry at my cancer situation today and yesterday and probably a million tiny times over the last six weeks. It's bad enough for it  to lurk in my marrow, threatening all the time to come true, taunting me with fatigue and difficulty healing wounds and a tendency to be flattened by stupid things like the common cold.  By now I have gotten used to the big, scary L looming in the shadows, never letting me fully forget that I could wake up one day feeling extra terrible and find out that my sort-of cancer is now acute myeloid leukemia. I'm not angry about that. I am angry about the bump in the roof of my mouth that keeps getting bigger, that no one seems to take seriously, but that I know is probably a little spot of oral cancer I have been afraid will turn up eventually. I am angry about the vulvar cancer spot that led to a surgery that kicked my ass, mutilated what was left of the terrain down there, and turned up nothing else invasive. I am angry that I am not happier that the surgery didn't turn up one iota more of cancerous tissue. It feels like something I should be happy about, but maybe that comes later. Today I still have kerlix gauze in my underpants. Today I am still on narcotic pain killers that I have to take on a schedule to keep the aching, twisted, tearing pain at bay so I can do things like fix myself breakfast and go to the bathroom. I am angry about being on pain killers. I am angry that I just turned thirty and I feel at once twenty-seven and eighty-five. All the assurances that there are ways to adapt to what is left of my lady parts sound trite and unconvincing. I am angry that I can't tell the difference between medication side effects, stomach flu, and the depression that sets in after weeks upon weeks of being stuck in bed, in pain, trying to explain how scary and disheartening and miserable it is to be cut up in this way to people who have never and will never have to know for themselves. I am angry that when doctors and nurses and family assure me that the suture ridges and scar tissue are a lot better than being dead, I want to tell them to shut the fuck up because how could they even start to understand how it feels? I am angry that I even care.

I took a long walk today, trying to get away from myself. I haven't walked anywhere at all since The Surgery. I have walked to get a cup of coffee this week and walked with R a little ways last night to retrieve our take-out pizza, but it was nothing like my usual walks. Today was maybe more like usual. I walked from the central library back home to my part of downtown, just about a mile. It was humid in a way that made my head buzz and my lungs burn. I kept thinking I was going to faint. I knew when I got home there would be blood all over my gauze, but I just kept going. I even backtracked a few blocks to buy dark brown hair dye at the drug store because I was upset this morning at the pink of my mohawk being faded and flaccid and too much work to keep vibrant. I stood in line, holding on to my hair dye and a cold bottle of water for dear life, as if they would stay fixed and keep me upright if my tunnel vision got any worse. I was stupid and stubborn for going in there, for not going home and just getting water from the tap, waiting until tomorrow or never to buy hair dye. I wish I could say I can't explain what came over me, but I know exactly what it was: petty, angry bull-headedness over cancer dictating every day what I can and cannot do, including simple things like going for a walk. I made it home without incident, greedily sucking down fridge-cold water the last few blocks to my building. I was lucky to have not passed out on the sidewalk, in the drug store, in the elevator up to my floor. I know I was lucky because as soon as I got in I had to pull off my jeans and lay down, sweating and panting and squeezing my eyes shut against the spinning room. That is what anger and restlessness from being in bed for so much of a month can do, if I'm not smart.

There is a chance my transplant-readying process will restart in a month. I need to get a lot of this angry out before that happens or I don't have a very good chance of getting through this minimally-scathed.


  1. I've done that, in a much milder way, with my fibro issues. Getting so angry at my limitations that I far exceed them even though I know I'll suffer physically. It is hard not to fall back from that surge of anger into depression that you still can't function, but instead find some feelings of acceptance and resolve to work around it instead of against it. I hope that, despite the pain and risk, it was theraputic and helpful.

    I understand too that frustration with people trying to cheer you up, to force you to think grateful happy thoughts when you're just pissed and need time and space to just be pissed, or depressed, or manic, or whatever. Sure, a horribly negative attitude wont' help healing, but I hope that people who know you trust that you will feel how you feel, but not wallow. I've heard two validating responses to those comments - one being, if I'm not allowed to feel upset because 'it could be worse' you shouldn't be allowed to feel happy because 'it could be better' - and also, yes scar tissues is better than being dead, but being healthy is better than this.

  2. It's okay to be angry. You don't have to be a perfect model cancer patient all the time. You're allowed to be human.

    I hope, though, that you can get them to take the spot in your mouth seriously. It's absolutely worth making a huge stink about, appealing up administrative chains, etc. You don't want it to get to the point where they'd have to do surgery that would affect your ability to speak or eat. And I very much hope that your stomach woes and other issues aren't linked to cancer, whether in your digestive system or elsewhere!